Vicky Bates says domestic violence is an invasion.
Up until modern times, it was something the Yurok people rarely encountered. But now, it’s here and it’s not going away, she said.
“The louder we make it and the more people we talk to amongst us, community resources and such, that’s what is going to help fix it,” said Bates, victim service coordinator for the Yurok Tribal Court’s Domestic Violence program.
The Yurok Tribal hosted its second domestic violence prevention conference, titled “An Action Plan to End The Residual Impact of the Invasion,” last Wednesday and Thursday. Law enforcement representatives from multiple agencies and advocates, both tribal and non-tribal, discussed the challenges each face and worked to figure out a way to put an end to domestic violence.
The conference was also a way for each program and agency, whether tribal or non-tribal, to get to know others working in domestic violence prevention, Bates said.
“If we all meet together and get to know each other, rub elbows, if I have somebody coming to me, now I know where to go,” she said. “The plan is for us all to talk to each other and find out what our strengths and weaknesses are and find out who our neighbors are. Then each person’s going to come in with a different thing they’re going to need, a different problem.”
The first day of the conference focused on violence against women and included an overview of the Violence Against Women Act, a discussion of the barriers domestic violence victims face when seeking safety, how the Violence Against Women Act works in tribal jurisdictions and how to come up with an action plan.
The conference’s second day focused on the legal role of tribal courts and included a break-out session for law enforcement and legal representatives and community representatives to come up with action plans. A third break-out session discussed how to identify signs of human trafficking and come up with a plan to prevent it.
According to Bates, one of the challenges facing domestic violence prevention advocates with the Yurok Tribe is the difficulty when it comes to travel and transportation. Redwood Coast Transit, which links Klamath to Crescent City, has only one stop after 7 p.m., she said. For clients in the tribe’s domestic violence program getting them to the Humboldt Domestic Violence Services program is also difficult, Bates said.
“What happens to the victim?” She asked. “They don’t call, they just (think) ‘OK, maybe it’s going to be the last time. I’m just going to bite the bullet and take it. I have no place to go to anyway.’”
Bates noted both Harrington House, Del Norte County’s domestic violence shelter, and Humboldt Domestic Violence Services have certain criteria for accepting clients. She also pointed out that for tribal members living in Pecwan, it could be a two hour drive to get to a domestic violence shelter.
“What has happened lately is we try to get people to go to family but a lot of times they can’t because maybe they got family that’s abusing them or they’re going to say you’re bringing shame to the family, embarrassment,” Bates said. “Our biggest problem is housing and transportation and that’s going to be a continued problem.”
During a presentation on the legal role of tribal courts versus state courts and the conflicts that often come with it, Abby Abinanti, the Yurok Tribe’s chief judge, said one solution being explored is a joint jurisdiction court with Humboldt County.
The joint jurisdiction court is currently focusing on the neglect and abuse of children, specifically those who are born drug addicted, Abinanti said. She said the program will involve her and Humboldt County presiding Judge Joyce D. Hinrichs hearing cases together and together working on a resolution.
When asked if a similar program is in the works for Del Norte County, Abinanti said she discussed the prospect of a joint jurisdiction court with Judge William Follett, but wanted to see how the court in Humboldt County progressed.
“Instead of working against each other, concurrent jurisdiction (is) looking at let’s do it together,” Abinanti said. “What kind of support can we get and what kind of services do each of these families need. Jurisdiction court increases the range of what we can do and if other tribes want to join in, I think they should join. It would be a good thing.”
At a break-out session, domestic violence prevention advocates narrowed down ways they might change their communities to collaboration with tribal and non-tribal entities, a safe place for victims to go and going about changing a culture that fosters domestic violence.
“Historically, domestic violence was not part of our culture,” said Laura Wood, a paralegal and mediator with the Yurok Tribal Court. “We all understand that it wasn’t that long ago that women were considered sacred in their ability to bear life and because of that medicine, that ability that we had and still have to bring life and a future to a village, a community, a town, a nation. With the invasion came with it an attitude of women being put in their place and women being subservient and less than when it’s contrary, completely opposite, to our traditional and cultural values.”
Wood said it’s the community’s responsibility to teach both boys and girls as soon as they’re old enough to understand to respect “the different medicines involved.”
Reach Jessica Cejnar at firstname.lastname@example.org